Founder of vidyodaya pirivena most ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Maha
The Vidodaya Pirivena stands before us as the great symbol of
resurgence of Sri Lanka, its people, and its whole culture. Though
generally it is considered as the great edifice of learning, specially
monastic education, in the true sense it is much more.
It served as the bastion for freedom fighters; the training ground
for future leaders, the cohesive force uniting all patriots; the center
for cultural awakening and rejuvenation; the fountain of wisdom and
enlightened leadership; the source of inspiration for a nation battered
and bruised by discriminative activities of an alien power; the provider
of emotive power to the people to rise against blatant oppression and
discrimination perpetuated by colonial powers starting since 1505 A.C
with the advent of Portuguese.
In short the Vidyodaya Privena symbolizes the rightful and legitimate
aspirations of a whole nation, yet striving to regain the glory of which
it has been robbed.
Mother Sri Lanka has always given birth to great sons daughters at
times of dire need. The Long history of Sri Lanka is replete with such
great personalities who selflessly served the nation with courage and
The founder of the Vidyodaya Pirivena is one such, and perhaps is the
brightest luminary of the 19th century who was in the vanguard of the
Buddhist and cultural revival movement of Sri Lanka.
But it is somewhat unfortunate that the services of this founder of
Vidyodaya Pirivena who breathed life into the whole revival movement has
not been properly and comprehensively evaluated, for the emphasis has
mostly been only on his scholarship and activities centering on monastic
education which has unduly overshadowed his multifaceted, incomparable
services to the nation as a whole in a much wider range of areas.
The Most Venerable Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera is, perhaps,
the most illustrious religious luminary after Asarana Sarana Veliwita
Sri Saranankara Sangharaja Maha Nayaka Thera.
In fact in service the former surpasses the latter, for the latter's
services extend beyond the ambit of the revival of the monastic system
and its education.
His services embrace the aspirations of the whole nation in all their
Born in 1827 in a hamlet in Hikkaduwa as the son to the family of Don
Nicholas Abeyweera Gunawardena, he entered the order in 1840 under the
tutelage of Ven. Mabotuwana Revata Nayaka Thera, the chief incumbent of
He had his early education at the feet of such erudite monks as Ven.
Pannangoda Jetuttara and Ven. Bowala Dhammananda. His enthusiasm and
futuristic vision was such that he learnt English, too, under the
guidance of one gentleman called John Cornelis Abeygunawardhana. And
this learning stood in good stead for him at the later stage.
As a young novice he showed his great potential by fluently
conversing in Pali with a Burmese delegation that arrived in Sri Lanka.
The turning point of his most illustrious career started with his
joining the Parama Dhamma Cetiya Pirivena, the most fertile nursery that
produced a band of both lay and clergy literati of the time.
The influence and guidance of Most Ven. Walane Sri Siddhartha, the
founder of Parama Dhamma Cetiya Pirivena as well as the sharp impact of
the peer-students including Ratmalane Sri Dharmaloka the founder of
vidyalankara Pirivena, ignited his deep desire to do his utmost best to
monastic education and to the nation, rendered helpless by the absence
of inspiring, enlightened leadership.
The Vidyodaya Pirivena started with just seven students, but within a
short period of time it was able to create a great stir in the whole
scenario of Sri Lanka in all its spheres.
Its student enrolment increased, drawing towards it not only local
talented students, but exemplary students from abroad.
Venerables Heyyantuduwe Sri Devamitra Mahagoda Sri Jnanesvara,
Bihalpola Sri Devarakshita, Kahave Sri Ratnasara, Baddegama Siri
Piyaratana Maha Theras were among the local students.
There were some from Japan: Ven Kojin Gunaratana, Kojina Kondanna,
and lay scholars such as Sato and Tochibana. From India there came Ven.
Dhammananda Kosambi, and also such scholars as Satischand Vidyabhusha,
Kevaradas, Pandit Goswami, N.K.Bhagavat and a host of others. Just as
student enrolment, the curriculae, too expanded, and teaching indigenous
medicine formed an important part.
The standard set by Most Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka
Thera who by then was appointed the Head of the Sri Pada, was such that
he was unanimously recognized the foremost Buddhist monk in the whole
island. Inspired by him, his peers, including Most Ven. Ratmalane
Dharmaloka started Buddhist Institutes.
Eminent Buddhist workers like Sir Henry Steels Olcotte, and even the
then Governor of Sri Lanka sought his advice and guidance.
He was greatly responsible in moulding the character of Anagarika
Dharmapala. Vidyodaya Pirivena provided the necessary forum for Buddhist
workers and, hence, it was a beehive of activities: academic, religious,
social and cultural.
Always self-efficiency and selfless in all services he rendered, Most
Ven Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Mahanayaka Thera was the real force behind
the great debater Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda.
He was the think-tank, the dynamic leader, the far-sighted campaigner
demanding for justice, equality, legitimate rights of all Sri Lankans,
specially the Buddhists. He gave leadership and demonstrated that
non-violent agitation is a forceful weapon to drive in proper sense and
reasoning into oppressive rulers.
Such is the calibre of this great Buddhist monk who set the role
model for his followers who headed the Vidyodaya Pirivena.
He was a tower of strength, a great source of inspiration who paved
the way for a host of great erudite men, both lay and clergy. He was the
torch-bearer of the Buddhist revival movement.
The institution he established, his brain-child, namely the Vidyodaya
Pirivena, which has had the great fortune of having erudite monks,
following the footsteps of Most Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, as the
beaconlight to all Buddhists of Sri Lanka.
To commemorate the Founders day a meeting will be held at the
Vidyodaya Pirivena on April 29, 2005 at 3.30 pm. Most Ven. Weligama
Gnanaratana Maha Nayaka Thera, and Dr. Darshana Ratnayake, the Senior
Lecturer of the Department of Sinhala University of Kelaniya, will
deliver special lectures at the occasion.
To mark this occasion, three senior Venerables, Most Venerable
Davuldena Gnanissara Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Medagama Vajiranana Nayaka
Thera and Ven. Kurunegoodah Piyatissa Nayaka Thera will be conferred
with the honourary title of Sri Sumangala Vidyavatamsa.
All are welcome to this meeting.